Saudi Commerce Minister Ossama bin Jaafar Faqih called Wednesday, July 4, for Tokyo to boost investments in the oil-rich kingdom, in talks with his visiting Japanese counterpart Takeo Hiranuma.
Japan should step up investments in "projects involving a transfer of technology and the training of Saudis", he said, quoted by the official news agency SPA.
The two countries have 37 joint ventures in which $4.9 billion are invested. Two-way trade amounted to $10.2 billion in 1999, with the balance heavily in favor of oil supplier Saudi Arabia.
In January, Saudi Arabia tapped Japan's Sumitomo Corp. to build a $2.2-billion desalination plant in the Gulf industrial city of Jubail, with Japanese capital. But Japan's Arabian Oil Co. (AOC) in February 2000 lost a drilling concession in the Saudi sector of a zone shared with Kuwait, after Tokyo refused to fund a two-billion-dollar railway in northern Saudi Arabia.
According to the Japanese news agency Kyodo, Hiranuma, who started a four-nation Gulf tour in Riyadh on Tuesday for talks with Japan's top oil suppliers, was to propose sending an investment expert to the Saudi capital.
He was also expected to sound out Saudi officials on reopening talks on a deal that would allow AOC to drill oil in the kingdom on a sub-contractual basis, it said. The Japanese trade minister is to travel on to Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Iran.
Kuwaiti Oil Minister Adel Al-Sebeih said in mid-June that the emirate and AOC were to start talks within three months to hammer out an agreement on oil operations in an offshore neutral zone. A new contract, "if any, will not be based on the previous contract, since this was concession-based and the new contract will be service-contract based," Sebeih said.
The emirate warned Japan in March that it would be "difficult" to renew a contract with AOC for drilling rights in the Kuwaiti sector of the neutral zone that is due to expire in January 2003. ― (AFP, Riyadh)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )